Beijing Fines Popular TV Drama for Showing Map That Left Out Taiwan

October 22, 2019 Updated: October 22, 2019

A popular Chinese drama recently received a 100,000 yuan fine (roughly $14,130) for not showing Taiwan as part of China on a map in one of its episodes.

The Ministry of Natural Resources said that the company was fined for “producing a map that doesn’t follow the national requirement without permission.”

Go Go Squid!, a 41-episode television series that centers around the blossoming romance between a singer and a professional gamer, became an instant summer hit in the mainland upon its debut in July.

It got into hot water in less than a month, after Chinese social media users found issues with the 39th episode, where it displayed an animated map that left out the self-ruled island of Taiwan and Hainan, the country’s southernmost region similar to Hawaii.

go go squid map
A screenshot of the controversial map in the Chinese drama Go Go Squid! (Weibo)

The map appeared in a game tournament scene for about 20 seconds, in which only mainland China was highlighted in blue in contrast to the surrounding regions. Taiwan and Hainan were not highlighted, suggesting they are not part of the country’s territory. The map also incorrectly labeled the India-Tibet border and the disputed Kashmir region, the ministry said in an Aug. 2 statement.

Taiwan remains a sensitive territorial issue for Beijing. Although China has no control over Taiwan, an independent island with its own democracy and military, the regime regards the region as its renegade province to be reunited by force if necessary.

In light of the controversy, major Chinese online streaming platforms such as iQiYi and Tencent immediately deleted the scenes that showed the map, and the episode also became unavailable on YouTube.

The main actors, Yang Zi and Li Xian, also quickly expressed their patriotism on social media to avoid further trouble. “Not a single bit should be left out” from China, they stated.

li xian weibo
A screenshot of the statement from actor Li Xian following the controversy. The photo attached to the post shows Li in a state-backed propaganda film. (Screenshot via Weibo)

The Taiwan-based director Chu Yu-ning denied knowledge of the map until the episode was aired.

“I couldn’t and wouldn’t create such a map,” he wrote on China’s popular microblogging site Weibo. “The Chinese map originally doesn’t look like this, any physical or verbal abuses are going to the wrong person,” he said.

China’s state media People’s Daily carried out a commentary on Oct. 21, saying the fine should serve as a warning for others.

“Anyone or any firm that makes a fuss out of the China map or makes mistakes should meet with punishment and public condemnation,” read the article.

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A Chinese man rides a bicycle past an advertisement for the Christian Dior store in Beijing on June 8, 2012. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

A number of international firms have also gotten into trouble in recent months for failing to toe the Communist Party line.

French luxury brand Christian Dior recently apologized on social media over Chinese nationalists’ complaint that it didn’t include Taiwan in a map of China during a business presentation.

Fashion brands Givenchy and Versace, jewelry retailer Swarovski, Gap, Marriott, and 44 international airlines have also made apologies after China didn’t agree with their representation of Chinese territories.

China’s assertive territorial claims have inflamed tensions with its neighboring countries. Malaysia recently rejected DreamWorks’ film “Abominable” for showing China’s nine-dash-line in the South China Sea, a U-shaped line illustrating China’s claims over vast expanses of the resource-rich waters. The line overlaps territorial claims made by Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Burma, and Taiwan.

Follow Eva on Twitter: @EvaSailEast
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